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Letter to Editor: Cruise Port

4th September 2019

 

As the petition verification process nears to an end, the first ever people-initiated referendum is imminent. Caymanians will make the decision on the largest capital works project in our history and not a political agenda.

This participatory democracy couldn’t have come at a better time. In the last year, we’ve seen numerous publications by the government, on every available social media/news platforms to try and convince us that cruise berthing is the only way our tourism product can survive. They’ve gone as far as to pay to spread misleading “facts” such as:

1. It will create 900 new jobs

2. It will make us more competitive

3. It will save our cruise industry

4. It will bring more passengers

5. It will cost 200 million

6. It will be paid back in 25 years

7. It won’t cost the Caymanian people a dime

8. We will get it back in 25 years

I could list a few more misleading reasons, however I must stay focused on the next few paragraphs, which will illustrate exactly what is taking place right before our very eyes. Please pay close attention.

In the earlier part of this year, the government was quick to inform us that two other cruise lines had made a commitment to help finance the piers, banking on the optics of how it would resonate with the tour operators and other locals, who are not fully aware of the true details.

When the preferred bidder was made public, we found out that Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line were a part of the Verdant Isle Group, who won the bid. We later found out that Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line made it very clear they didn’t want any other cruise lines being a part of this investment.

Now, if one didn’t care about the survival of our islands’ ability to secure a future for the next generation, then that very interesting turn of events wouldn’t show up on their radar. However, for those of us that are very cued into what is going on, I must make the following facts public and ensure people are aware, so when it’s time to vote on this issue we understand what’s at stake.

Let’s dive straight into the details.

1. Reasons for Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line not wanting any other cruise lines involved with the berthing facility is so they can continue to control the cruise market in the Caribbean. Some interesting facts to digest: 60% of their global revenue comes from the Caribbean region and 35% of the entire cruise industry comes the Caribbean, so make no mistake, they need the Caribbean to survive because this is a billion dollar industry.

2. The Cayman Islands tourism product is a vibrant industry that is flourishing with record-breaking numbers every year because of our uniqueness, plus clean environment, along with a low crime rate. This allows us to be a premium destination and why cruise lines call to our port. However, we have heard some really disturbing statements by our own government saying ‘it’s all at risk’ if we don’t build a berthing facility.

3. Here’s the breakdown: Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line’s only objective is to have a port to park their Oasis-class and above ships. Please don’t forget, there are many other cruise lines out there that call to our port. They are largely responsible for our current success and won’t be able to use the piers once “the Big 2” are allowed to finance them. Those are the cold, hard facts.

4. When looking at other jurisdictions that have entered into public-private partnership with these two companies, you will find there’s never a happy ending, where that country enjoys the host of so-called benefits that were promised prior to the agreement. We should look closely at the proposed terms of re-payment for their investment into our port.

That 25 year payment plan that is being promoted by the government and cruise lines isn’t exactly what it seems. Here’s why: In the absence of a guarantee from “the big 2” to bring the desired number of passengers required for the re-payment of the cost of their investment, this can become very tricky.

If we are unable to pay back the cost within that allotted 25 years due to unforeseen circumstances, like bad weather, we can see that 25 year turn into 30 or even 40 years, and that won’t be in the best interest of the Caymanian people. This is why it’s so important that our government share the information, in full detail, on what agreement they have in place with these two cruise lines.

5. After much reading and research, I have come to the belief that Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line are simply buying out our cruise industry, with its clear agenda and with the government’s consent. The writing is on the wall, it’s been there the entire time. When you look closely at all of the pieces of this puzzle, it becomes crystal clear what’s truly at play here, and that is that they are

• Making sure they are the only two investors that finance the port

• Making sure they collect and control most revenues from berthing head tax etc. for as long as it takes to repay

• Controlling the cost of all pre-booked tours by their companies, creating an unfair advantage to the other people operating tours without a pre-booked contract with them.

This sounds more and more like another Falmouth!

6. This a full analysis of what is written on the wall for all to see. It’s deliberately designed to be confusing to us all, with shallow promises of jobs and economic growth in an already thriving industry that doesn’t need a berthing facility to maintain its success. It’s only to further secure their stronghold on cruise tourism industry in the Caribbean, which accounts for 60% of their global revenue.

Please take note that there is very little to zero conversation or information being circulated in any of our own government pro-port campaigns about any of the other cruise lines that aren’t owned by the Big 2. Why is that? They are just as important to the numbers that we post annually of cruise passengers that visit our island.

I will end with this last revelation of what is actually happening. The government claims that this investment will be repaid mostly with the monies generated by the tender fees, $5.20 now. Here is where it gets tricky once again. If that is in fact the case, does that mean that if the other cruise lines that are not allowed to use the piers decided to “pass us by” and those passengers that would have potentially contributed to the head tax revenue that pays back the investors are lost, wouldn’t this clearly create a major concern with the timeline of 25 years to re-pay the players in this arrangement and put our port at risk of staying in the ownership of a foreign entities for a much longer period?

This new port isn’t to increase the headcount and subsequently create more jobs, or generate more revenue for the Caymanian people, this is to give them full monopoly of the cruise industry.

Mario Rankin

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